Published on March 30th, 2012 | by Retro19200
Can We Talk About: The Weeknd
Ali Shaheed is amazed by Abel’s Improvisation during recording sessions. Ali Shaheed, member of the legendary Hip-Hop group A Tribe Called Quest, previously did an exclusive interview with Exclaim! (an informative monthly Canadian Music & Entertainment magazine that features in-depth coverage of new music across all genres with special focus on Canadian and cutting-edge artists).
In the interview, Ali Shaheed discusses the importance of “vulnerability” for an artists and their music. Ali also reflected on the distance between the older generation and a newer generation, both socially and in music. During the process of the interview, Ali explained his understanding and likeliness of OFWGKTA and his encounter with Abel from The Weeknd. As you all may know by now, The Weeknd is an RnB sensation that took flight after the House of Balloons project surfaced the net, receiving critical acclaim. The Weeknd is affiliated with Drake’s OVO endeavors and Abel is credited for co-writing a handful of songs on Drake’s sophomore release Take Care.
I still remember the first time I heard The Weeknd, it may have been the first public track leaked from them – a chopped and screwed version of “The Morning,” leaving fans to wonder if Drake had been doing a side project with a different stage name (internet was going through a similar phase as Lupe fans when they were trying to figure out if Lu was part of Japenese Cartoon). The second track I heard from The Weeknd was What You Want, which put all the “it’s Drake rumors” aside. Their marketing campaign was so mysterious and left everyone anticipating the music; Abel’s face barely seen in low quality pictures, an official site showcasing a pitch black screen with just a logo present, and a few songs scattered around a vast internet world.
Then 2011 showed up – The year of The Weeknd. In 2011, The Weeknd released three projects: House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of silence. The last installment of the trilogy was released on December 21st, a day that had a significant seasonal meaning to Abel. Each project from the trilogy is unique in it’s own way. Each project from The Weeknd really reflects the mood of the season it was released in, the temperature climate you may be experiencing, the time of day, nature, and environment. Talk about sonically pleasing. All of the projects sound amazing, regardless of what time of the day, but Thursday and Echoes of Silence hit an insurmountable peak at night. You know that Nostalgia where the past, present, and future intertwine and become one?
On the contrary, the House of Balloons project sounds amazing in the morning, noon, and day time, though the back half of the album should be reserved for night time affairs. I still remember when House of Balloons dropped. I downloaded the album, put it on a blank CD, and walked to my car. I sat in the parking lot and dozed off to the whole album. I usually catch artists before they get really big. I pride myself in being that fan before the fan and really indulging in my own created frenzy before the music reaches the masses and becomes saturated.
Well, here’s the moment you all have been waiting for. Here is an excerpt from the Exclaim! interview, regarding Ali’s thoughts on The Weeknd and observations of Abel’s recording process. Excerpt taken from an Exlcaim! interview:
I saw on your website that you had a post about the Weeknd which in a way is related. The lyrical perspective is so interesting on that album. That’s vulnerable. Do you see that as a new direction perhaps?
Yes. And I don’t know if every generation is supposed to get it. I see people who embrace it like crazy and others stand there and hate on it. But absolutely. I sat with them and… it blew my mind. I was sitting there watching him like an MC. He’d just open up a microphone and it all comes out. Not written. Really freestyling all the way through a song.
I didn’t realize that. Freestyling, really?
Freestyling through the song. He’d sit there, hear it, put the mic on ― boom! I was sitting there like “oh my God”! I’m used to being around rappers who do stuff like that, but I’ve never been around a singer who’s like, all the way through a song. And the words really connect. Like you would think “I sat down and wrote this out for a little bit, or maybe spent a few weeks, a month, a whole day or something.” But it’s just pure rawness and emotion connecting. I had challenged him saying, “You know what, don’t be afraid to be more vulnerable.” I have a humble spirit when I’m working with people cause I don’t like it when people tell me about what I’m doing. I’m like “OK cool yeah ― I’m not done, don’t talk to me, let me get there.” But when I was invited to a [Weeknd] session by my friend Doc who was knocking out the project, he played me a song and I felt Abel so much I was like “don’t be afraid to be more vulnerable.” His instrument, his vocals ― I’m trying to find the words…The fact that it’s improvised kind of reminds me of Jamaican singjays in the early ’80s. When I listened to that record I thought, there’s not a whole lot of melodic variation in the singing, but now that you’re saying that it’s freestyle, it totally makes sense in that context. I hope I’m not revealing his process, spilling the beans!
Was that during the [recording of the] mixtape that you were invited?
No it was afterwards, so I can only speak on what happened before my eyes. To me, it was inspiring because it opens up music to be emotional. It opens it up to break the monotony. It allows for something else to come in. You can only take that and go [with it]. A lot of people are stagnant, they go in the studio and say “What do I do?” and they don’t know where to go because there’s nothing out there that’s really inspiring. When I grew up there were so many different bands and different creative people who were like giving you a pool to immerse yourself, going I can go this way or that way. I can be moved by Stevie and do this, I can be moved by Miles and do this. I can go here like Al Green and those guys in the south were doing, or what Parliament-Funkadelic were doing. Now, at least in hip hop ― you can’t move. So I love what [The Weeknd] are doing.
Excerpt taken from Exclaim!